The Virginia General Assembly has moved into the halfway point, a time of year we call crossover. During crossover, legislation that has passed from one chamber will go to the other for consideration. For the past several years this is where extremist legislation passed by the Republican-controlled House of Delegates would go to the Senate and quietly die in committee. This year will be different.
Since Lt. Governor Bolling has decided that he will also take on the role as the 41st Senator, it is possible that the extremist social agenda of the Virginia Republican Party (and the Tea Party) will see the light of day. This is even more worrisome in a year when self-proclaimed “moderate” Governor Bob McDonnell is beefing up his conservative credentials to be considered for Mitt Romney’s Vice-Presidential spot on the ticket in 2012.
Just this week, legislation passed that would require an invasive medical procedure for a woman seeking reproductive healthcare and making an already difficult choice. Republicans have taken the first steps to banning contraception and abortion in the Commonwealth through passing a personhood bill, language even the voters of Mississippi found too conservative for themselves last year.
The extremism is not even limited to social issues though. Teachers are under attack, and legislation has passed to the Senate that will fundamentally alter the way teachers are hired and fired. There is also legislation passing to the Senate that will allow corporations to receive a tax credit to fund scholarships to private schools, but what none of the Republican proponents will talk about is how this will reduce General Fund money for public schools, health programs, and public safety.
While many people may see a bleak outlook, two things make me have hope. First, while Democrats are in the minority we can be vocal and take our message to the people. Articulating a vision for a better Commonwealth will strengthen us as a Democratic Party, and bring more people into the conversation about how we want our future to look.
Charniele Herring (D-46) serves as the House Minority Whip and represents Alexandria City in the Virginia General Assembly. For more information, visit www.charnieleherr... or on twitter @c_herring.
Second, we are small but mighty. I stood up on the House Floor and told my colleagues of all political persuasions the same thing that I wish to say to you. Not on my watch, not on my watch will I stand quietly by while people try to undo our civil rights and the Voting Rights Act. Not on my watch will I stand by while women’s privacy and bodies are attacked. Not on my watch will I stand by while public education is jeopardized because we will not have a conversation about how to pay for roads.
I hope you will not let these things happen on your watch either. Bills making it more difficult to vote, changing teacher contracts, and ending a woman’s right to choose have passed to the Senate to decide this week, and I hope you will have your voice heard. Even though the dynamic has changed here in Richmond, ultimately, it is the people to which we are accountable, and I hope you will not let this happen on your watch.
By Charniele Herring